Yale Researchers Receive Donaghue Awards For Work on Global Healthcare, Depression

Research projects by two Yale School of Medicine investigators—one studying global healthcare disparities, the other, depression—have been given a boost with five-year, $600,000 awards from the Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation for Health-Related Research.

The Investigator Awards to Jennifer Prah Ruger, assistant professor in the Division of Global Health at Yale School of Public Health, and Alexander Neumeister, M.D., director of the Molecular Imaging Program in psychiatry, are intended to support particularly promising and highly talented medical researchers holding academic appointments at Connecticut institutions.

Ruger is studying how to reduce disparities in healthcare, specifically among women, adolescents, minorities, and other groups. Her goal is translate her findings into clinical and public health programs that make more efficient use of scarce resources while improving clinical and public health practice.

In previous studies Ruger found global health inequalities are substantial and growing and are influenced by economic, social, and health-sector variables as well as geography. She recently co-authored a study showing that those individuals in most need of medical care in Korea, but who can least afford it, spend more of their income on health services than wealthier citizens.

“The Donaghue Investigator Award,” Ruger said, “will be invaluable in furthering my research on the ethics and economics of health and healthcare disparities in the United States and across the globe.”

Neumeister is studying the neurobiology of depression. He is particularly interested in the relationship between trauma and stress and the risk of developing depression. Neumeister will conduct brain imaging studies using positron emission tomography (PET) in collaboration with researchers from the new Yale PET Center to determine the function of the brain and to identify novel targets for drug development. This is of particular relevance since previous research has shown that currently available treatments for people with depression and a lifetime history of severe trauma show only modest effects.

“This funding will allow us to study a very severely ill patient population which has not yet received sufficient attention and is very difficult to treat,” Neumeister said. “This award will yield important novel results that are expected to benefit people with depression and trauma.”

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